Basswood vs pine - Router Forums
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-16-2013, 08:23 PM Thread Starter
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Default Basswood vs pine

I'm new to the world of wood, recently picked up a second hand dremel and am wondering about wood type. I'm wanting to carve letters and am thinking about picking up a dremel router attachment. Is basswood or pine the best place to start?
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-16-2013, 09:17 PM
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Wood Guide for the Beginning Wood Carver - Yahoo Voices -

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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-17-2013, 12:15 AM
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Cedar (red) is also a good carving wood and since it is related closely to redwood I would guess that redwood is also good. I would be sure to wear a dust mask for power carving some of the woods listed and especially for the red cedar. There are many species of pines. White pine is the softest of all the ones that I am familiar with but I would think that most of them should be okay.

Someone I consider a master woodworker once told me that a master woodworker is not someone who never makes mistakes. He is someone who is able to cover them up so that no one can tell.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-17-2013, 12:40 AM
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Default Poplar Choice

Hi, Zach; Do you have Poplar in Nebraska?
No idea about sign making but I've always been impressed by Poplars machinability. It takes very detailed profiles with no splintering...very tight grain.
The stuff we get here has a very slight green tinge to the wood colour which may put people off using it.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-17-2013, 05:11 AM
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Zach, if you are just starting out in carving, I would suggest basswood. On the Janka Scale, basswood and white pine are similar in softness. Because basswood has really tight grain ( or no grain) it carves easier than pine. You'll need sharp tools though. Basswood paints well but not good for stain.

Good luck and have fun.

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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-17-2013, 08:26 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies!

@DaninVan, i will need to check and see what I have around here. I hadn't considered poplar, so thanks for the suggestion.

I did pick up some Basswood and it does indeed cut smoother than pine. I'm just using my dremel at this point, but I may have the wrong bits... Trying to work through that now.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-17-2013, 09:59 AM
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If you are going to make signs for outdoor use you should avoid poplar because it rots very easily, but if you are just looking for wood to practice on or for an indoor project, it carves very easily. Pine has hard/soft grain structure that will give you problems because the hard parts of the grain will tend to pull your bit off course as you encounter it if you are carving free hand (without guides). Basswood carves very easily, but it doesn't hold up well outdoors unless it is kept painted or varnished on all sides. Wooden Merry Go Round horses are carved from basswood. Mahogany carves very easily and is relatively weather resistant. Cypress is also a good choice for outdoor signs and it is also quite weather resistant.

There are special bits available for power carving that are not sold by Dremel. This is a sample of what I am referring to. You will need bits with 1/8" shanks for your Dremel.

Power Carving Burrs

If you find that you like power wood carving you will probably quickly want a more powerful carver than the Dremel. A Foredom flexible shaft carver or and air powered die grinder will fill your need and they can use the same 1/8" shank carving bits that the Dremel tool does. These also spin faster, which reduces the side pull of the bit as you hand carve.

Power Carving Tools - Fine Selection by Traditional Woodworker

I like my air powered carver because it doesn't heat up while you are using it, but it does take a 20 gallon or larger air compressor to run it properly.

Air Die Grinders |

For finer, more delicate carving I use a 1/16" bit air powered carver similar to this one. It spins so fast that there is almost no side pull of the bit while you carve. It's almost like using a marking pen. It too uses air, but requires almost any air compressor from the pancake type and larger to operate it.

This size carver is great for fine engraving, gunstock carving, and egg shell carving. Examples are shown on their website.

High Speed Engraving - Turbo Carver


Central North Carolina
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-17-2013, 12:46 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks much for the links and resources. I think you're getting at where I could be going with this thing.

I've explained and expounded on my project in much more detail in this post here.
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